Date of Award

Spring 6-4-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)



First Advisor

Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa

Second Advisor

Iyko Day

Third Advisor

Paul Pfeiffer


Dead Letter Room is a photographic and textual dialogue with images that emerge from the end of the Asia-Pacific Wars and World War II in the Pacific. These images are governed by the historical contexts that produce them; they are mediated by the explosive aftershocks of nuclear war, the transoceanic space of imperial desire, and the onset of oblivion in the aftermath of catastrophe. Throughout this essay, I present the historical, image-theoretical and psychoanalytical frameworks that meaningfully guide my address of historical images and my approach to making new ones. With detours through various artists and theorists, I offer the expressive grammars that are critical to my dialogues with images of postwar Japan and the possibilities these conversations engender.

Significant to my practice, and to this essay, are photographic and filmic materials from the United States Strategic Bombing Survey, conducted in 1945 by the US military to study the efficacy of Allied-bombing on Japanese soil. Through sojourns in this archive, I consider the temporal and spatial structures that condition photographic looking, the mediation of the visible and the visual in modern and contemporary warfare, the inter- and intrasubjective flows of desire in the postwar landscape, and the registers of withdrawal in the aftermath of disaster.

At its core, Dead Letter Room is a search for (dis)appeared specters in the mid-20th century Pacific. It reflects my curiosities about the potential for intimacy and animacy between human subjects across time, and it represents my desire to short-circuit the directional notion of time that imprisons history as a catastrophe of the past.


View exhibition online: Allie Tsubota, Dead Letter Room

Included in

Photography Commons



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